Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)Job Description, Salary, Career Path, and Trends

Emergency Medical Technicians are the first people on the scene of an emergency, and they use their expertise to deliver patient care, support, and evaluation on scene or in transit to the hospital. They help safely transport patients between hospitals, care facilities, and more.  

EMTs assess patients, determine the appropriate treatment and care, and administer life-saving medical treatments. They may also be responsible for operating and driving an ambulance. These individuals ensure that patient confidentiality is maintained and patient rights are respected.

EMTs also keep proper records and document patient condition, information, and treatment. They have excellent interpersonal skills with the ability to remain calm in stressful situations. Due to this being such a high-stress job, it’s not for everyone. You have to be extremely good under pressure.

Sample job description

The Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) responds to emergent and non-emergent requests for medical assistance and delivers high quality patient care, treatment, and customer service in the most expedient, professional, safe, caring, and cost effective manner possible within the prescribed scope of practice, established protocols, and company policies. As an ideal candidate, you have proven experience in an emergency care setting. You must be able to problem solve and work under pressure, and you should have a natural desire to help people receive excellent patient care.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Evaluate and assess patient upon arrival to determine appropriate care 
  • Provide patients with basic emergency care and document patient condition, information and more
  • Determine if patient needs to go to an ER or trauma center
  • Communicate with other emergency service personnel 
  • Provide life support care if needed, such as CPR
  • Lift, carry, and transport patients
  • Provide first aid treatment

Education and experience

  • High school diploma required. 
  • One year of related experience.
  • Clean criminal record.
  • EMT certification required in most states.

Required skills and qualifications

  • Exceptional interpersonal and verbal communication skills
  • Ability to work as a team member
  • Desire to think creatively and help those in need
  • Ability to work well under pressure
  • Excellent listening skills
  • Ability to lift more than 50 pounds

Preferred qualifications

  • Ambulance driver’s license
  • Experience in an emergency response team

Average salary and compensation

The average salary for an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) is $38,000 per year in the United States.  Salary will vary based on level of experience, education, and geographical location. 

LocationSalary LowSalary High
Phoenix, Arizona$37,800$51,150
Los Angeles, California$42,650$57,700
Denver, Colorado$35,550$48,050
Washington, DC$43,300$58,550
Miami, Florida$35,350$47,850
Orlando, Florida$32,600$32,600
Tampa, Florida$32,950$44,500
Atlanta, Georgia$34,550$46,750
Chicago, Illinois$39,700$53,750
Boston, Massachusetts$42,950$58,100
Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota$34,250$46,300
New York City, New York$45,200$61,200
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania$36,800$49,800
Dallas, Texas$35,850$48,500
Houston, Texas$35,700$48,300
Seattle, Washington$41,350$55,950
National Average$32,300$43,700

Typical work environment

EMTs work both indoors and outdoors and in all types of weather conditions. They have strenuous physical working conditions, and commonly work in metropolitan areas. While many EMTS are full-time employees, some work more than 40 hours a week. They may work 12 or 24 hour shifts and have variable work schedules. Because of this, they may work only a few days a week. 

They will occasionally need to work late or over weekends. EMTs have a higher rate of injury and illnesses due to working conditions. These risks can be reduced by following proper safety procedures.

Typical hours

The typical work hours for an EMT vary widely. EMTs may need to work holidays, nights, weekends, and more.

Available certifications

As EMTs work in a variety of industries, there are certifications that are necessary to become an EMT:

  • CPR certification. Many medical professionals need CPR certification, including EMTs. It may help to have CPR certification even before beginning EMT certification. Certification can be gained online or in person. This is the first step in becoming an EMT.
  • EMT certification. If you want to be an EMT in the medical field, you will need to earn an EMT certification through a local college, fire department, or other nationally recognized service. Requirements vary by state, but you must be able to pass a criminal background check and drug test as well. Most certifications are valid for two years. After this time period, you will need to do continuing education or take a cognitive exam.

Career path

EMTs have entry level education. It is a postsecondary non-degree award. Having a high school diploma is needed along with CPR certification. Next, completing a state-approved education program in emergency medical technology is needed. 

Students must pass the National Registry Emergency Medical Technician exam. Passing the psychomotor exam, which is administered by the state’s emergency management services office or local training institution, is also needed to become an EMT. This exam requires students to perform emergency skills, including patient assessments, controlling bleeding, managing shock, providing ventilation procedures, managing cardiac arrests, and more.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 29-2041

2020 Employment261,300
Projected Employment in 2030289,900
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 11% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift28,600 increase

EMTs will be in high demand in the future. The baby boomer population is aging and will require more emergency services due to things like heart attack, stroke, falls, and other medical emergencies.

Burnout and mental health struggles are also common among emergency service workers, so administrators will need to make programs and services available to those who need help. 

Technology is also shifting in the medical field, with social media and telemedicine adding value, but it will not replace the primary role of EMTs, which is taking care of people in medical emergencies.

Sample interview questions

  • How do you stay fit to handle the physical demands of this job?
  • What are the most challenging aspects of being an EMT?
  • How do you keep calm in emergency situations?
  • What trends do you currently see in the EMT field?
  • What past experiences have equipped you for this role?
  • Describe a challenging call you have had as an EMT. 
  • How would you remove a patient from an area that is difficult to reach?
  • What does an ideal day on the job look like for you?
  • Why are you seeking a new position?
  • Can you think of a time you provided exceptional care?
  • What kind of environment have you worked in as an EMT?
  • What leadership qualities do you have?
  • Do you prefer to work alone or on a team?

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